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Alaskan Bush People isn't filmed where you think

There are plenty of shows that are about living off the grid — see: Naked and Afraid, Life Below Zero, Homestead Rescue, etc. — but Alaskan Bush People takes viewers off the beaten path and into the wild Alaskan wilderness (aka "the bush"), where the rugged Brown family lives off the land in rustic, cramped quarters and doesn't associate with civilized society. At least that's the image producers of the popular Discovery Channel series have cultivated since its 2014 premiere. But what's the real story with the show?

With 12 seasons under its belt, Alaskan Bush People follows the nine-member Brown clan as they supposedly rough it in the backwoods of the small town of Hoonah, Alaska, which has a population of just 760. In the self-proclaimed "Browntown," where Billy and Ami Brown live with their seven kids, they claim they hunt and forage for food, share a self-constructed one-bedroom cabin with no electricity or running water, and have no concept of the modern world.

But despite what it looks like, Alaskan Bush People isn't filmed where — or how — you think. Here's what we know.

The locations on Alaskan Bush People aren't as remote as they seem

Have you ever watched Alaskan Bush People and thought, "How do they live like that?" Well, it may be easier than it seems.

We often see the Brown family score a meal by any means necessary, whether that's hunting animals or gathering plants. They often cook outside over an open flame, and sometimes they've even resorted to eating leaves. But it turns out that their remote location outside of Hoonah isn't really that remote. Yes, Hoonah is a rural town about 30 miles outside of the Alaska state capital of Juneau, but it still has a pizza place and a donut shop, among other restaurants. So, technically, the Browns could order takeout to feed the family on nights their hunting expeditions leave them empty-handed.

And while the Browns own almost 30 acres of land on their Alaskan property, which went up for sale in 2019 for $795,000, they're not so far out that they don't have neighbors who have found filming for Alaskan Bush People to be disruptive. In fact, on season 1 of Alaskan Bush People, the neighbors made themselves known by creating chaos on the set one night. In the "Fight or Flight" episode, the situation was portrayed as the Browns fleeing from gunshots on their property. In reality, according to the Anchorage Daily News, a neighbor shot off fireworks at an overhead helicopter filming the show.

"[I] decided to shoot a couple in the air, not in the vicinity, and let them know, 'Hey, get away from my house!'" said the angry neighbor. "Stop portraying Alaskans like we're idiots."

The Alaskan Bush People family members live elsewhere when not filming

Not only does the Alaskan Bush People family have access to pizza and donuts in downtown Hoonah, but there's also apparently a very cushy hotel ... where the Brown family stays when not filming the show. According to Radar Online, Billy, Ami, and the rest of the Alaskan Bush People gang have often been seen coming and going from the Icy Straight Lodge just a few miles away from where they supposedly live. Locals claim the Brown family only stays in "the bush" when cameras are rolling, and oldest son Matt has reportedly even been seen hanging out at the hotel bar trying to pick up women.

In addition to the hotel claims, there have been other public accusations that the Brown family doesn't actually live where they claim to, with fans online apparently having spotted them in Southern California, Oregon, and Washington when they were supposedly roughing it in the bush. One fan theory has the family coming together to film and then going their separate ways to live in more modern homes in various states — none of which include Alaska. 

Backing up this theory is the fact that Billy and his son Bam Bam spent 30 days in jail back in 2016 for lying to the government about where they lived in order to collect state assistance (via Anchorage Daily News). And that wasn't their first run-in with the law over the subject. In 2014, they were charged with 24 counts of falsification and theft for lying about living in Alaska to collect government checks.

The family is steadfast in their claim that it was all a miscommunication, and patriarch Billy had this to say when accused of fakery: "What can you say to people like that? We call them 'Bobs in the basement.' That's what we call the people who sit behind the computers and don't have a life. I actually feel sorry for those people when they don't have anything else to do. You do feel sorry for them ... that's about all we do. That's about all the attention we pay to it."

Alaskan Bush People moved to Washington State in season 8

When matriarch Ami was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, the Alaskan Bush People clan decided they needed to leave Alaska in order to seek the best possible treatment for her. That led them to move into a $2.7 million mansion in Beverly Hills, California, with five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a Jacuzzi, a hot tub, and a pool — a far cry from the backwoods of Alaska.

But that house served as only their temporary digs while Ami sought treatment, and eventually the Brown family settled in Washington State, buying a 400-acre piece of land in Okanogan County just south of the Canadian border. But since there was no property built on the land, the family rented the nearby Lodge at Palmer Lake – a four-level, 10-bedroom estate with a wine cellar that costs approximately $3,000 a week.

As for why they decided to leave the Alaskan bush behind, Billy told Monsters and Critics"We didn't really have much choice. The doctors were quite emphatic that we couldn't go back [to Alaska], it was just too hard to get her to [a hospital] if something happened. It's just too risky now."

Son Bear added, "Alaska will always be home to me, personally, and to all of us, but family is more important and Mom just can't live up there anymore."